Month two as a (now) mother of three has proven hopeful.
The common question I answer is, “How are things going?” My standard response: “We have more good days now.” One day, though, my four year old punched my three year old in the nose, and my three year old bit my four year old so hard she drew blood. That was how it was going.
This month I learned that we mothers may strive for daily routines that hit high performance marks, but the best we can do sometimes, especially when stressed, is settle for full bellies and (mostly) healthy children.
Learning to Leave the House with Three. For real.
I feel less like a caged animal this month. During the first month, the tediousness of outings – buckling seatbelts, timing feedings, checking the diaper bag, grabbing water bottles, making sure everyone has shoes on – had proven intimidating enough to keep me home. But at some point, I decided to embrace the chaos. It wasn’t without setbacks.
One hot day, I marshaled the troops, gathered my wits, and determined that we’d attend story time at the library. With everyone fed and mostly dressed, I told the two older girls to grab shoes and get in the car while I finished feeding the baby and getting her bag together. My three-year-old dragged her feet, stalling for reasons only a three year old knows, assured me that her shoes were in the car and not in her room as I supposed. After some coaxing (okay, some threats and bribes), she meandered to the car to get buckled.
We made it to the library running (only) 15 minutes late – a small victory, and I went to help with buckles when my three-year-old, panic in her voice, told me she had no shoes. Sure enough, there were no flip flops in the car, and my child was shoe-less.
I proceeded to rant in the girls’ general direction that we could not attend story time, we could not go home and come back because we would miss it all, and we would just have to try again another time. She asked me why, and I paused before giving her an answer. Seriously, why couldn’t she just go barefoot?
Finally, we turned the corner.
Halfway into month two, I have started to enjoy the ride. The biggest struggle with this new addition is not the infant stage, it’s mothering the preschoolers with grace. I have yelled more than I’d care to admit – across the house, across the room, across the yard. But slowly, I began to handle the noise with more poise, and I felt freedom in a new stride as the mother of three. Miley Cyrus’s song, “Wrecking Ball” still comes to mind when I watch my three-year-old move in to give the baby kisses, but she is getting better. I’m also getting better at parenting her.
My oldest grows in her helpfulness daily, always wanting to comfort the baby when she cries, give her the pacifier, throws away diapers, runs small errands for things I need around the house. Watching her blossom as a strong helper fills my heart in ways I cannot describe.
We will survive in this brave new way of life. Perhaps at some point, we may even thrive.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- Embrace the chaos. Don’t deny it, don’t hide it, don’t stifle it. Embrace it. It is what it is.
- Take the time. Take the time to look each child in the eye for a few minutes each day. Engage in at least one thing they love or are proud of at that moment. Connect for their sake and your sanity.
- Planning ahead helps, but flexibility is key. The baby will need to eat at the least opportune time; the preschooler will have a potty emergency right after buckling her into her car seat; you’ll spot stains on clothes after everyone is in the car and ready to go. Just roll with it.
- Stay in the game. With pregnancy/breastfeeding hormones still relatively volatile, the demands of life may seem overwhelming. The only way to eat this “elephant” is one bite – one diaper, one sippy cup, one meal – at a time. Don’t “check out.” Stick with it; it gets better.
Month two has given me hope. I will survive.